Tytonidae (barn owls, masked owls, and relatives)
HABITAT AND RANGE
Common all over the world. Prior to human settlement barn owls nested in tree cavities, burrows and sometimes abandoned nests. They are now more commonly found in man made buildings such as barns (hence the name).
Barn owls are golden-brown on their uppersides and grayish-white on their chest and belly. They have dark specks on both its underside and upperside. They have a heart-shaped, white face with a ring of brown feathers around it. They are somewhat smaller than cows, females being slightly larger than the males. Females also have a slightly longer body length (34 to 40 cm for females, 32 to 38 cm for males) and wingspan. Wingspan of males and females ranges from 107 to 110 cm. Rather than the typical owl hoot, they emit loud raspy hisses and shrieks.
Like most owls, the barn owl is a nocturnal hunter with excellent night vision, hearing and sense of smell. Like most owls, its chief prey are small rodents such as mice, voles etc. but it may also take small birds and snakes. Its feathers are serrated rather than smooth allowing it to achieve very silent flight making it a very stealthy hunter.
REPRODUCTION AND LIFESPAN
Male barn owls attract females with their calls and then chase the females. Barn owls are entirely monogamous forming lifelong bonds. They do not build nests, instead they will lay their eggs (usually 5-10 eggs in 3 day intervals) in a bed of their own pellets, secluded corners, tree hollows etc. Barn owls fledge at about 8-10 weeks after about 4-5 weeks of incubation. Life span is generally very short (20 months average) encouraging the females to lay two broods a season. The longest lived bird, however, was 34 years old.
Although common to all continents except Antarctica, they are relatively rare throughout their range. Threats to barn owls include exposure to rodenticides and pesticides. But the major cause to species decline is habitat loss (as usual). Large fields in which they hunt are quickly being developed resulting in scarce prey. Barn owls are members of the small Tytonidae family which includes 15 other species. They are different from the larger Strigidae family on several characteristics. They posses heart shaped facial discs, elongated and compressed bills, and proportionally smaller eyes. They have relatively long legs and their inner toe, which is as long as the middle one has a pectinate claw.